Let’s Celebrate – 2015

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yalda.7Happy Yalda, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa. 

The Yalda festival was a Mithraic celebration, which finds its origins among the earliest Iranians. But in 53 BCE, when Roman legions were unable to conquer Parthian Mithraists, they adopted Mithra the “Unconquered Sun” as their own military deity, and Yalda or “Yule” became an official celebration of the Roman Empire.

Many of the original pagan symbols survive in what has come to be known as Christmas such as: holly, ivy, the color red, the mistletoe, Yule logs, the giving of gifts, decorated evergreen trees, Santa Claus, etc..

Christmas Day (December 25th) is a Christian holiday which is celebrated around the world by decorating Christmas trees, attending church, traditional food, and exchanging gifts.

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday celebrated by millions of people in the United States.  It is a week long holiday, observed from December 26th to January 1st every year. 

Hanukkah (also known as Chanukah) is an eight-day festival of lights and a Jewish holiday.  It commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem during the second century BC.  It begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev and usually falls in November or December.  Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 days and nights with the lightening of the menorah, food, and gifts. 

 

1394 (2015) The Year of Omar Khayyam

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khayam2Pasargad Heritage Foundation (PHF) was established a decade ago outside Iran with the aim of preserving Iranian cultural heritage. For the last nine years, on the advent of each Iranian New Year (which coincides with the beginning of spring), PHF designates a name for the coming new year that signifies certain aspects of its mission. The main purpose of this “name designation” is to emphasize the priceless value of the ancient cultural heritage of Iran that are exposed to constant destruction due to intentional and accidental negligence of the relevant authorities n Iran.

This year PHF has named the New Year of the Iranian calendar as the “Year of Omar Khayyam”. Khayyam has been an internationally known Iranian poet (known by his famous Rubaiyat or Quatrains), philosopher, mathematician and an astronomer. In addition to being known for his poetry or Rubaiyat, he also created one of the three major world solar calendars, based on the ancient Iranian chronometry which was also accepted as a major accurate calendar globally.

Unfortunately, due to his non-religious opinions and his scientific outlook, Omar Khayyam has not been popular with the religious authorities of his country. During the last seven years, Iranian authorities have forbidden teaching about his work, personality and as a result account of life story has been changed.

            Naming the New Iranian year, the “Year of Omar Khayyam” would hopefully bring more recognition and awareness of his contributions not only to Iranian Cultural Heritage a country he was from but also to the human civilization.

 

Fears Grow for Maui’s Dolphins

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dolphinLate last month (June 2014), several news outlets reported that documents reveal that 3,000 square km of the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary have been signed off for exploration permits and that the New Zealand government opens west coast block for oil and gas drilling.

The West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary which is included in the block of land has been recognized to be home to the Maui’s dolphin. International conservation activists and organization like WWF (World Wildlife Fund), a charity organization have urged the New Zealand government to do more to save the dolphins and do not put them at a higher risk.
However, the Conservation Minister Nick Smith insisted recently that the block in question “is nowhere near where the Maui’s live,” after the issue was raised by the Green Party. Mr. Smith has also told the New Zealand Parliament that There hasn’t been a single observation of a Maui’s dolphin (in the area), and the oil and gas industry hasn’t been involved in a single Maui’s dolphin incident in Taranaki over the past 40 years despite 23 wells being drilled, according to Independent Newspaper.
The Maui’s dolphin is the world’s rarest and smallest dolphin. It is estimated that there are only 55 adult left off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island as their numbers continue to be threatened by fishing and disease.

Our Universal Natural Heritage

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As the UNESCO World Heritage Committee met in Qatar last month (June 2014) and added more sites to the World Heritage List, several natural sites were also inscribed on the World Heritage List. These sites even though located in different parts of the world, (they) are humanity’ Universal Natural Heritage. Here at WCHV’s website, we have tried to bring you the news about any destruction, contaminations, and/or changes brought about climate change, or by negligence to these beautiful and grand sites.

Last month, we also created our first brief video which we hope will be first of many videos about preservation and conservation of world heritage. This first video – http://worldculturalheritagevoices.org/new-video-behind-beaty/ – focuses on how our beautiful universal natural heritage has been affected and changed.

himalayaThis year’s additions to natural sites on the World Heritage List include the Great Himalayan National Park located in India, Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in the Philippines, and Okavango Delta, in Botswana among many others. According to UNESCO’s site, the delta in northwest Botswana comprises permanent marshlands which are seasonally flooded. It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact. One of the unique characteristics of the site is that the annual flooding from the river Okavango occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronized their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods.

For a complete list of all the sites added to the World Heritage List, visit http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/

Mummified Monks Showcased in Capuchin Monastery

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monks The Capuchin monastery in Brno, in the Czech Republic has unveiled 24 mummies preserved in their robes, holding the rosary beads and has put them on display.

The mummified remains of 18th century monks are the only remaining mummies of the 200 Capuchin Crypt monks and supporters of the religious order, who were buried until the end of the 18th century. According to a Brno tourism website, the composition of the rock and the special ventilation system in the buried champers allowed the corpses to be mummified and preserved.

The church is decorated with Baroque sculptured dating to around 1765. Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic and the largest Moravian city.

Challenges in Environmental Conservation

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loggingIn the world of environmental conservation, there are many organizations that are continuously watching and working hard to safe guard the world’s environmental heritage.   One of these organizations is Greenpeace, which is now calling for more surveillance and conservation in the Amazon Rainforest. Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The Amazon rainforest is home to a quarter of known land species on earth. The Amazon rainforest also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf forest that covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America. This basin encompasses 7,000,000 square kilometres (2,700,000 sq mi), of which 5,500,000 square kilometres (2,100,000 sq mi) are covered by the rainforest belonging to nine nations. The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests, and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species. However, illegal logging which is one of the biggest threats to the Amazon rainforest is threatening this amazing eco-system. Illegal loggers invade protected areas, including ecological reserves and indigenous land, and degrade forests through overharvesting. And, it’s not just the forest that suffers. Locals in Brazil who speak out against illegal logging often face violence and death threats and even assassination. As a result, rainforest habitat for many animals like the jaguar, spider monkey, and three-toed sloth is also under attack. 

In a latest campaign, Greenpeace states that illegal timber operations in Brazil are hacking apart this iconic forest. But many American companies like Lumber Liquidators import and sell Amazon wood because this forest crime is out of sight and as a result out of mind. American flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators even buys timber from a Brazilian state where 78% of the wood is illegally harvested according to Greenpeace. 

Earlier this month, Greenpeace activists blockaded one of Brazil’s major timber exporters, bringing the operation to a standstill as reported by Greenpeace.  Illegal logging is possible because companies like Lumber Liquidators don’t really know where their lumber comes from. Greenpeace’s investigation demonstrates how criminals are able to launder illegal timber and disguise it as “legal” for the market all while using official Brazilian government documents.

According to Greenpeace, the only way to stop Amazon destruction, is by asking U.S. companies not to buy into Amazon crime.  In only five months, Greenpeace has reported being able to convince some of the biggest global companies to commit to forest-friendly policies that could lead to creating real change for forests.

The Dire Condition of Animals in Iran

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Loin-gheshm3Many species of animals are in ominous and dire condition in Iran due to lack of proper training and education in preservation of environment and protection of animals. In addition, because of irresponsible attitude of the government authorities, no measures and restrictions have been taken in order to change the conditions. Even in zoos across the country, animals endure very though conditions and have no security, living in conditions comparable to the dark-ages.

The following photos show 30 African lions being kept in a small cage. The location is a circus in Gheshm Island in the south of Iran as well as a bear kept in Babolsar zoo in the north of the country.

khers-babolsar.2jpgLoin-gheshm2Loin-gheshm1

Safe-guarding Those Who Protect and Preserve National Heritage

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virunga guardsThe recent sad news that Mr. Emmanuel de Merode, Chief Warden for Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was ambushed and shot is only the latest in a series of attacks and assaults around the world against those who protect and preserve national heritage sites. While all of us are grateful for the fact that Mr. de Morde’s condition is stable and he is recovering in Kenya, we are also hoping that more international guidelines and laws could create more support and security for these individuals.

According to Katy Scholfield, Synchronicity Earth website, in August last year, Ranger Kasereka Kipako was killed in an ambush of his patrol post. This had come just a month after two rangers were killed and seven others wounded while travelling from Goma to Rumungabo. More than 140 park rangers have been killed in Virunga in the last decade as reported by BBC. 

Rangers and park workers are targeted directly for a number of reasons. To many they present a threat to the income of militia groups, who are responsible for much of the illegal charcoal production inside the park. Rangers have also been targeted by the state – the organizations who are supposed to protect and ensure their safeguard. Ms. Scholfield also reported last year that Ranger Rodrigue Katembo Mugaruka was arrested and imprisoned in Kinshasa for trying to protect the park from British company, Soco International, carrying out oil exploration.

Earlier this month, Global Witness released a report titled: “Deadly Environment: The Dramatic Rise in Killings of Environmental Land Defenders.”

The report actually revealed some very shocking statistics as outlined in the Scholfield’s blog:

At least 908 people were killed in 35 countries protecting rights to land and the environment between 2002 and 2013, with the death rate rising in the last four years to an average of two activists a week.

The year 2012 was the worst year so far to be an environmental defender, with 147 killings – nearly three times more than in 2002.

Impunity for these crimes is rife: only 10 perpetrators are known to have been convicted between 2002 and 2013 – just over one per cent of the overall incidence of killings.

The problem is particularly acute in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Brazil is the most dangerous place to defend rights to land and the environment, with 448 killings, followed by 109 people Honduras (109) and 67 in the Philippines.

It is very obvious to all of us that more international laws with harsher penalties have to be mandated in order to safeguard those who make sure that the national heritage sites including Virunga National Park is protected and preserved for the future generations.

To read Katy Schonfield’s original blog go to :

http://www.synchronicityearth.org/blog/2014/04/violence-increasing-towards-environmental-human-rights-defenders

Endangered and Nearly Extinct

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gorillaIt is hard to believe that as we go on with our daily tasks, our planet Earth gets closer everyday to losing another animal species.  In fact, it would be hard to believe, unless you take a closer look. 

The list is long and includes animals like mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) living in the Virunga Mountains, bordering Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda to the giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea)  which has been declared the most endangered and evolutionarily distinctive bird in the world. 

So why are these beautiful animals disappearing?  There are many reasons including changes in climate, local and regional unrest, ecological changes, deforestation, and increasing poverty that affect humans and therefore, affect many animals living in different habitats. 

In addition, there are many animals that are reported to be now extinct.  The list includes many animals that most of us have actually never seen and perhaps will never have the opportunity to see. 

One of these animals is Baiji dolphin or “the goddess of the river” and for a long time, the dolphin’s skin was highly valuable and used to make accessories like gloves and handbags.  According to Mother Nature Network, the last documented sighting of China’s baiji dolphin, or Yantze River dolphin, was in 2002. Even though, the species is listed as critically endangered, many scientists believe that it may already be extinct. In 2006, the Baiji Foundation sent a team of scientist on a Yangtze River research expedition. The team traveled for more than 2,000 miles while using optical instruments and underwater microphones, to search for the rare dolphins, but could not detect any sign of it. The foundation published a report on the expedition and declared the animal formally extinct. The decline in the baiji dolphin population has been attributed to many factors including overfishing, boat traffic, habitat loss, pollution and poaching.

It is clear to environmentalists and conservation activists that we should do a better job of making sure that fewer and fewer animals are vulnerable and therefore become endangered and unfortunately extinct. 

Richard Frye, Harvard Professor of Iranian Studies, Has Passed Away

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Richard FryeProfessor Richard Nelson Frye was Professor of Iranian Studies Emeritus at Harvard. He established the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern studies and taught at Harvard from 1948 to 1990, though his impact lingered even after his formal retirement ended.  Many appropriately referred to him as “the Dean of the World’s Iranists”.

Professor Frye was the author of more than twenty books and over 150 articles about the ancient Iranian culture. His work covered the spectrum of Iranian studies and the history of Iran and related cultures across the centuries, with  the relevant sources  and documents in multiple living and extinct languages ranging from Avestan and Old Persian to Sogdian, to present modern Iranian languages.  Early in his career, the editor and compiler of the monumental, encyclopedic Persian dictionary, Dehkhoda, gave him the honorific Irandoost, or Iranophile, which has since adorned the doorway to his office at Harvard.

He received his PhD in history and philology from Harvard in 1946, with his thesis on Narshakhi’s History of Bokhara.  He joined the Harvard faculty in 1948 and later became Agha Khan Professor of Iranian Studies.  Later, he founded the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) at Harvard.  His books and articles on Iranian history and culture have endured as references on the subject. Some notable titles include Iran (1953), Persia (1968), The Heritage of Persia (1963), The Golden Age of Persia (1975),  History of Ancient Iran (1984), The Heritage of Central Asia (1996), Greater Iran (memoirs, 2005), and History of Bukhara (2007).

He passed away at the age of 94 on March 27th, 2014.